Spanish architect spent 40 days in US jail over 2011 Syria holiday

The Local Spain
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Spanish architect spent 40 days in US jail over 2011 Syria holiday
Photo: wavebreakmedia/Depositphotos"

A 32-year-old architect from Pamplona found himself jailed and then deported after declaring on a US visa application that he had taken a family holiday to Syria in 2011, before civil war broke out.


On April 23rd, Leandro Pérez Cadarso attempted to cross the US border from Mexico, where he moved four years ago in search of work, with the intention of taking a short vacation in California.

Coming face-to-face with a Customs and Border guard he tried to explain that an online visa application had been unsuccessful after he ticked a box admitting that he had travelled to Syria, but that he had decided to apply in person so he could explain the circumstances.

He accepted that he was trying his luck, and thought that if the visa was denied he would just return to Mexico.

Pérez explained that he had taken a family holiday to Syria in 2011 – with his parents, sister and an aunt – where the group had visited historical sites, including the now destroyed Roman ruins at Palmyra.

But within minutes of the explanation he was taken to a private room, handcuffed and taken to a detention centre in San Diego.

“I didn’t understand what was going on. I hadn’t done anything wrong. Nobody told me anything. I thought that some criminal had the same name as me or that somebody had put drugs in my backpack,” Pérez told El Pais.

After three sleepless nights and days in a holding cell with 30 other men, he was transferred to Calexico prison where he was held for 40 days until being deported to Spain.

He complained that he was never even visited by the Spanish consulate while in jail, and was never again questioned about his trip to Syria.

“I was told not even to bother getting a lawyer, as I wasn’t accused of anything, there was to be no judicial process or hearing before a judge,” he told Spanish news agency Efe.

He was sent back to Spain on June 1st and told not to attempt to return to the USA within the next five years.

Speaking from his home in Navarre he said he had "no desire" to ever go back there.

President Donald Trump is currently battling to have his revised travel ban reinstated after it was declared illegal by two separate federal courts in the US.

In an executive order issued by Trump within days of arriving in the White House the new president attempted to impose a ban on entry to visitors from six mostly-Muslim countries.


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